The concept of sonoristic harmony is rooted in the theory of sonology, which was evolved gradually over a period of nearly three decades (since 1961) in the writings of Polish prominent music theorist, Józef M. Chomiński (1906–1994).
The term itself forms a kind of an oxymoron because it goes beyond the traditional concept of harmony (pitch-oriented) towards the idea of ‘sonoristics’ understood as a compositional technique which focuses on sonic explorations and uses sound colour as the main constitutive element of the musical structure. Thus, in this context, harmony is adapted for the description of the intricacies of modern avant-garde music and means a musical element transformed into values of a ‘purely sonorous’ origin.
Chomiński’s concept encompasses not only the question of harmony but also the issues of counterpoint and instrumentation, which are considered from the sonological point of view. It involves the whole achievable sound material, including noises and sounds of indefinite pitch.
The core of the concept of sonoristic harmony is built on the classification of ‘vertical structures’. They replace traditional chords and represent various degrees of sound density, including verticals made up of pitch intervals, sound impulses, bourdons, ostinatos, as well as glissandos and clusters. At the higher level of systematics, the diverse forms of interaction of these phenomena in multi-layered sound structures are presented.
The aim of this paper is to explain Chomiński’s concept using the appropriate music examples and to assess its expected applicability as a tool for analysis of a musical work.